Before Barack Obama, the “black president” lived in the African American imagination as a kind of cosmic joke, a phantom of all that could never be. White folks, whatever their talk of freedom and liberty, would not allow a black president. They could not tolerate Emmett’s boyish gaze. Dr. King turned the other cheek, and they blew it off. White folks shot Lincoln over “nigger equality,” ran Ida Wells out of Memphis, beat Freedom Riders over bus seats, slaughtered Medgar in his driveway like a dog. The comedian that the first black president would need a “Vice President Santiago”—because the only thing that would ensure his life in the White House was a Hispanic president-in-waiting. A black president signing a bill into law might as well sign his own death certificate.
Fear of a Black President